Monday, March 7, 2016

Gathright leads underdog Xavier Nuggets to GCAC tournament title Over #1 Seed Talladega

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NEW ORLEANSWhitney Gathright played a near perfect game in leading the Xavier Gold Nuggets to their 16th Gulf Coast Athletic Conference women's tournament championship.  The Nuggets defeated No. 1 seed Talladega 75-68 at the Xavier University Convocation Center.

Gathright scored a game-high 25 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including making both of her three pointers and nine of 10 free throws.  She added six assists, four rebounds, and three steals to further fill out the box score.

"It was a surprise to me", Gathright said of her shooting performance.  "I prayed about it last night, and good things happened."

Good things indeed, as Gathright claimed her second tournament MVP award.  She won the honor after the 2014 tournament when Xavier topped another top-seeded team from Talladega.

The Lady Tornadoes (23-5, 11-1 GCAC) were neutralized for much of the first half.  The Xavier defense limited Talladega to 35 percent shooting as they fell behind by 10 points, trailing 28-38 at the break.

In the second half, the Gold Nuggets were able to hold off the Lady Tornadoes each time they attempted to rally.  Even with Talladega making 45 percent of its shots after halftime, Xavier had put them in a hole too deep to climb out of.

Xavier coach Bo Browder was reflective after the victory.  "We started off the season on pace to be a top five team.  We beat the number one team in the country.  I've never had a team do that in the preseason.  We've been through so much, we lost players to grades, to personal issues but we didn't make any excuses."

"I'm just a country dad woke up every morning and went to work", he continued, "and for me to get to do this...I realized that life is so short, you've got to appreciate these moments."

Trana Hopkins added 12 points for Xavier and Bianca Brown finished with 10.

GCAC Player of the Year Shakeena Benton led the Lady Tornadoes with 18 points.  Tatyana Calhoun added 17, with Sashanique Youngblood (13) and Tajanee Wells (10) also finishing in double figures.

Xavier (22-11, 7-5) receives the conference's automatic bid to the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship in Independence, Mo. from March 16-22.   Talladega, which won its second regular season championship in the past three seasons and is currently ranked 15th nationally, will have to wait until March 9 to find out if they will receive an at-large bid to the tournament.

2016 GCAC All-Tournament Team
Jermisha Collins, Fr., G, Edward Waters
Rayvin Miller, Sr., G/F, SUNO
Shakeena Benton, Sr., G, Talladega
Donyeah Mayfield, Sr., F, Xavier
Whitney Gathright, Sr., G, Xavier

Tournament Most Valuable Player
Whitney Gathright, Sr., G, Xavier

Tournament Results
Opening Round
(3) Xavier def. (6) Dillard, 71-57
(5) SUNO def. (4) Philander Smith, 72-52
(2) Edward Waters def. (7) Tougaloo, 64-52

(1) Talladega def. (5) SUNO, 73-65
(3) Xavier def. (2) Edward Waters, 73-55

(3) Xavier def. (1) Talladega, 75-68

Tournament MVP  -- Whitney Gathright, #25

Photo Gallery 
Final Tournament Bracket


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